It’s All Meaningless 2? Chasing The Wind 2 (Ecclesiastes 2:1-26)…

mountains (1-29-18)

We started in Ecclesiastes 1 last post & we dig into chapter 2 to hear from Solomon,
who enjoyed all the sin & pleasure this world offers,
who stood at the peak of what people relentlessly climb…
& he says the view isnt great/isnt worth the effort—is meaningless…

Ecclesiastes 2:1-26

I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.”
But that also proved to be meaningless.
2“Laughter,” I said, “is madness. & what does pleasure accomplish?”
3I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—
my mind still guiding me with wisdom.

[Even with all the wisdom in the world, Solomon’s WILL was sinful;
though he knew right from wrong, he deliberately did what was wrong.

God shows us here that the human problem, at its core, is not lack of knowledge;
it’s a sinful heart: not just “accidentally” doing wrong but desiring/choosing wrong.

We don’t just need more or better information;
we need complete transformation.

John 3:3-6: Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God
unless they are born again
[or born from above].

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked.
“Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God
unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

Matthew 5:18-20: But the things that come out of a person’s mouth
come from the heart, and these defile them.

19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—
murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

20 These are what defile a person…”

Ezekiel 36:25-27: I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean;
I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees
and be careful to keep my laws.”

That is the folly of local churches that only teach the Bible’s ethical commands
but that don’t teach on repentance from sin—without a change in nature,
without repenting of our sinfulness & crying out to the Lord Jesus
to forgive us and make us new,
we are like terminally ill patients who want to
clear their skin’s complexion or strengthen their biceps…
they must deal with the terminal illness first!

Being made new by Christ by faith alone must come BEFORE
starting to follow Him & live out His commands—
without repentance from sin & faith in Christ,
we can temporarily improve our literal practice
but our legal position remains the same:
guilty, lost in sin, separated from God.

  • We are often like a defendant, brought before the judge,
    & the defendant gets a new haircut, a new suit/outfit,
    to look clean-cut and presentable in court.
    On the outside they may look polished/respectable,
    but they are still guilty and will still be sentenced by the judge.

What they need is to not plead the 5th or temporary insanity or make excuses
but to give a full confession and throw themselves at the mercy of the judge…
THAT is when Christ then gives us HIS perfectness to wear
to cover our nakedness & to replace our filthy rag fig leaves,
our attempts to get cleaned up by ourselves,
that is when the Lord Jesus takes our F-filled report card
& gives us His A+-filled report card,
when He by grace alone thru faith alone
changes our legal position from guilty to not-guilty…
then & only then does He begin transforming our daily practice from unholy to holy.

Solomon had all the right information, but his heart was still wrong…
and thus he knew the right thing to do but chose to do wrong…

Back to Ecclesiastes 2:

“I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens
during the few days of their lives.

4I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards.
5I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.
6I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees.
7I bought male & female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house.
I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.
8I amassed silver and gold for myself, & the treasure of kings and provinces.
I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart.
I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me.
In all this my wisdom stayed with me.”

[Power, fame, financial wealth, physical pleasure, achievement—Solomon did it all.
Hugh Hefner, Steve Jobs, Napolean, Bill Gates, Frank Lloyd Wright, Tom Brady–
pick your group of people whom the world would call successful/accomplished;
Solomon was all of them rolled into one.

We often hear this when a famous person dies:

“His/her accomplishments live on, no one will forget what they achieved,
their name will live forever in the record books.”

Oh how our striving can be a way for us to “live forever”
with out submitting to the Lord Jesus.

Like the tower of Babel in Genesis 11—
let’s make a name for ourselves (YouTube: broadcast yourself!)
instead of worshiping the Name that is above all names.

No one in heaven will remember who won
Academy Awards, Super Bowls, started billion dollar businesses.

Not that it is wrong to accomplish things,
but to seek meaning & purpose & fulfillment in our accomplishments is meaningless, is idolatry, anything except what Christ has accomplished for us on the cross.

Yet he was still not satisfied, still starving,
it was all still meaningless, still just chasing the wind. Wow.]

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.

[He was like a four year old who was in control of his life
with a billion dollars to spend on anything he wanted!] 

My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil.

11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.

[Solomon drank all the different brands of saltwater that this world offers,
he imbibed the intoxicating liquid with shiny packages, cool looking bottles and labels, and an alleged low low price!

But he was still left thirstier than ever…saltwater can never quench…
sin never truly satisfies…

A recent Super Bowl-winning quarterback was interviewed
and told the reporter that when he got on the team bus
the very night of winning the Super Bowl,
he looked around at all his teammates celebrating and thought to himself,

“Is this it? All the hard work…for this? I’m so glad we won…but wow.
I thought I would feel different, I thought I would feel fulfilled.
And I’m not…not at all…” Wow.]

12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly.
What more can the king’s successor do than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their heads, while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both.

Watched an HGTV show a few years ago:
the host advised people selling their house to
“spray paint green any brown patches of grass”…

THAT is the world’s wisdom,
that is the world’s clever attempt to fix the sinfulness of this world
& find meaning/significance apart from submission to Christ Jesus:

just cover it up…
like Adam & Eve trying to fix their guilt & shame & nakedness
by covering themselves up with a self-made outfit of fig leaves & branches
that they designed & sewed together.

But the brown grass is STILL unhealthy, still dead, still needs to be made alive
even though the green spray pain makes it blend in with the rest of nature,
the rain will wash off the spray paint
& eventually reveal the true condition of the lawn,
the deadness that spreads…

My dear friends, the Lord Jesus doesn’t spray paint our souls’ condition,
He EXPOSES the brownness of our grass, the deadness of our souls,
as the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin (John 16:7-11).

Then the Father draws & leads us & attracts us to the Son, Jesus (John 6:44),
not for Him to spray paint our brownness but to truly make us alive:
reborn, new sod, new lawn, declaring us green and holy in position…

We then receive the Lord Jesus as our Savior & King in faith
by repenting of & turning from our sinfulness, both general and specific sins,
and then the rest of our lives on earth are Him

  • tending us,
  • making us green and holy in practice,
  • fertilizing us,
  • turning over the soil,
  • getting rid of the rocks,
  • aerating us (putting holes into us to make us healthy!),
  • protecting us from the weeds and insects of sin,
  • watering us thru the Holy Spirit & the Bible,
  • pruning & cutting away the unhealthy parts of us,
  • shining the life-giving presence of the Son,
    even through the clouds that discourage us!

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon says the world’s green spray paint is meaningless…
and it is, dear friends, it is meaningless…

oh put down the spray paint of your good deeds
and attempts at improving or justifying your behavior
and drop to your knees and cry out to the Gardener
in repentance of sin, in faith,
for new sod, oh rip out the dead lawn, the dead grass,
take away the shallow, rocky soil,
and make us new…

and oh He will, all as a gift, all undeserved,
all out of His limitless compassion & mercy for sinners like us!

 15Then I said to myself,
“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself, “This too is meaningless.”
16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!

Solomon keeps trying to understand life by human reason alone

& it leads to despair.

He looks around and it seems like everything ends up the same
for those close to God & far from God,
those who have wisdom & those who don’t.

Don’t we do this too, usually subconsciously?

We see so many non-Christians or seasonal church-attenders
seeming to have a great life,
everything seems to work out fine for them,
sometimes better for them than us,
and we doubt whether God is real,
whether all we’ve learned from the Bible is really true
because there are times when it doesn’t FEEL true,
and we start to live as “practical atheists”—

maybe this life IS all there is…

and if so, I had better hedge my bets and diversify my portfolio
and not put all my eggs in the Lord Jesus’ basket,
I had better grab as much earthly pleasure as I can while I can
JUST IN CASE it turns out that the Bible is wrong…

I don’t want to waste my short life on
carrying a cross & denying myself if it’s not true!

Oh don’t we profess to believe,
but don’t our actions show that we are only living for now?

We are trusting in what we feel, our own perspective,
instead of what God has said;
pragmatism rules our universe instead of God…

And so we have despair, just like Solomon in the next verse:

17So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me.
All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 

18I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun,
because I must leave them to the one who comes after me.
19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish?
Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil
into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun.

This too is meaningless.

20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun.
For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill,
and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it.
This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 

22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving
with which they labor under the sun? 

23 All their days their work is grief and pain;
even at night their minds do not rest.
This too is meaningless.

[Look at what Solomon experienced internally
after his external relentless pursuit of sinful pleasure,
after his treating accomplishment as idol &
trusting in personal achievement as a replacement for the Personal God:

  • he hated life (v. 17),
  • his heart was full of despair (v. 20),
  • his accomplishments were a great misfortune (v. 21)
  • his striving was full of anxiety (v. 22)
  • all his days were grief & pain and his mind was restless (v. 23).


Is that what you are pursuing, my dear friend?

Without Christ, THAT is what your road eventually leads to,
even though you spend your life paving that road
and driving that road in a Lamborghini,
it still leads THERE.]

24A person can do nothing better than to eat & drink & find satisfaction in their own toil. 

[Again, this is Solomon’s cynicism talking, he is speaking out of his disillusionment;
he is spiritually “hangry” and is not seeing reality clearly.

THERE IS something better than eating & drinking & liking your job—
there is Christ Jesus, God with us!,
knowing God Himself,
being adopted by God the Father,
eating & drinking the Lord Jesus’ body & blood by faith
& celebrating HIS toil, HIS accomplishment thru the cross & empty tomb!

A person can do not better than that, than HIM!]

This too, I see, is from the hand of God,
25for without him,
who can eat or find enjoyment?
26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness,
but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth
to hand it over to the one who pleases God. 

This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

My friends, as we began to discuss last post,
Solomon’s disillusionment is from trying to fill, and keep full, a bucket with lots of holes.

It is the very definition of madness, of insanity. It cannot be done.

Solomon tried changing the amount of stuff that he poured in his bucket,
he focused on changing the rate/speed of what he poured—
if I can fill it FASTER, then the bucket will get full!

No…increasing the speed gives the ILLUSION of the bucket being full,
but eventually it still drains away, it gets empty again.

Eventually we won’t be able to fill the bucket—
either we lose our income or we lose our external looks
or we lose whatever it is that we have gotten our happiness/identity from
or our earthly life ends—the bucket eventually then drains empty.

Everyone who isn’t in Christ by faith is in the process of the bucket draining…
they may still have stuff in the bucket, even good deeds!,
but it’s draining like an unplugged bathtub…

Or Solomon pragmatically tried to change what he filled the bucket with,
whether money/fame/physical pleasure/achievement, even good deeds!—
but the result was the same—emptiness.

The issue is not the speed that we try to fill our buckets
or even WHAT we try to fill our buckets with…

the issue for every human is that
we need a new bucket entirely, one without holes.
Only the Lord Jesus can give us that:

2 Corinthians 5:17-18: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come
[or that person is a new creation]:
The old has gone, the new is here!

18 All this is from God,
who reconciled us to himself through Christ
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…”

THAT is where life IS truly meaningful,
THAT is where we can experience true pleasure and joy that lasts,
true significance,
being full of Christ,
not stuff…

Closing Challenge

Epitaph of early 19th century poet John Keats:

“Here lies one whose name is written in water.”

Trying to find significance in life apart from Christ,
trying to find fulfillment in striving,
is the same as trying to write your name in water with your finger…

Don’t try so hard to make a name for yourself, to leave a legacy,
apart from Christ.

It is as meaningless as trying to write your name in water…

Rather, receive Christ, flee to Him for salvation,
rest in Him & His finished work on the cross,
so that your name is written, not in water,
but in heaven in His Book of Life…

celebrate & rejoice in Him, my friends—

don’t chase the wind, chase Him Who created & controls the wind.

Don’t use your brief life to make a legacy or monument for your glory on earth;
the world’s record books will be destroyed in fire…

Use your life to make a monument of praise for the glory of Christ forever,
He Who endured the fire of the cross to forgive sinners like us…